Archive for the ‘2009 Free Agency’ Category

Possible 3-4 line-ups, here we go

February 4, 2009

I had originally written this post several weeks ago (early Jan). I suspected Kampman would be made into an OLB (in the mold of Mike Vrabel). Now that we know that this is apparently where he’ll play for sure (read here for more), check out some of the following line-up possibilities – I’ve taken into consideration free agent options here. Who do you think will start for our front 7 this year?

  • 3=Peppers, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Kampman, James Farrior, Barnett, Chillar;
  • 3=Jolly, Pickett, Jenkins; 4 = Kampman, Ray Lewis, Barnett, Hawk
  • 3=Jolly, Pickett, Jenkins; 4 = Jason Taylor, Barnett, Karlos Dansby, Kampman
  • Pickett, BJ Raji (read here from Boston College), Jenkins; 4=Kampman, Barnett, Farrior, Suggs
  • 3=Peppers, Pickett, Jenkins; 4 = Kampman, draft pick like Ray Maualuga from USC (Pmenadue’s suggestion), Barnett, Chillar
  • 3=Jenkins, Pickett, Jolly; 4=Suggs, Dansby, Barnett, Kampman
  • 3=Jolly, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Chillar, Kampman, Barnett, Suggs
  • 3=Jolly, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Kampman, D Bishop, Barnett, Hawk
  • 3=Chris Canty, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Chillar, Dansby, Farrior, Barnett
  • 3=Chris Canty, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Chillar, Barnett, Bishop, Suggs
  • 3=Peppers, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Kampman, Dansby, Barnett, Jason Taylor
  • 3=Peppers, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Kampman, D Bishop, Barnett, Suggs
  • 3=Peppers, Pickett, Jenkins; 4=Kampman, Barnett, Hawk, Suggs
  • 3=Pickett, new huge fat guy through draft, Jenkins; 4=Kampman, Barnett, Mike Peterson, Suggs

Trade the guys who are left off, or just use them as back-ups. For those questioning the idea of putting Kampman at OLB, consider that Mike Vrabel, OLB for the NE Patriots is also 6’4″ in the 260s – and that Kampman filling gaps as a LB might be really helpful for stopping the run. (Though I’d even consider putting Kampman at ILB between two speedy players like Barnett and Chillar.) Anyway, we need better talent in this front 7 than we have presently, but we don’t need 7 new guys. We need 2-3 new guys to step in and I think there will be some decent options in free agency.

Imagine a defense that would have Aaron Kampman lining up as an OLB on the same side as Julius Peppers – only to have Terrell Suggs and Jenkins coming at you from the other side while Barnett and/or James Farrior or Ray Lewis or Bart Scott or Desmond Bishop or Karlos Dansby man the middle. Then, imagine a QB having less than a second to figure out where to throw the ball while Woodson and Collins are just waiting for an interception to run back. Throw in a few nasty hits by Atari Bigby (or a free agent safety like Leonhard, Dawkins or Atogwe) and blanket coverage by Al Harris and suddenly, we’re the Green Bay Steelers.

Anyway, I’m getting out of control here but my point is this: there are lots of ways to go as far as staffing this 3-4 and I am excited for it. In fact, I have decided to go on record here guaranteeing that the 2009 defense will be a top 12 defense.

UPDATE: Bad news for me. I just learned that James Farrior, a guy I thought would look great next to Nick Barnett in a 3-4 line-up, apparently signed a contract extension with Pittsburgh in August – a 5 year deal for a 34 year old player. That’s how good this guy is. Too bad.


Free agent priority list

January 20, 2009

It’s hard to realistically prioritize which free agents are worth pursuing. I agree with many of you who are more concerned right now with getting Jennings and Collins re-signed first. (I might throw Tauscher in there too). Those are things that should happen asap so that we have a better idea for how much cap room we will really have going into this off-season. Anyway here is the most comprehensive list of 2009 free agents I have come across. Below is my attempt to prioritize:

  1. Shane Lechler – it is a rare, rare opportunity to be able to sign one of the best punters in NFL history. I say take it. We all saw Mike Scifres almost win the San Diego/Indy game by himself. Lechler is even better and his ability to give opposing teams worse field position could significantly help the defense succeed.
  2. Julius Peppers – I share some of the concerns about Peppers’ attitude, and his vanishing act in 2007 can’t be forgotten. But his 5 forced fumbles and 14.5 sacks in 2008 can’t be ignored either – not to mention his overall ability to make offenses have to game-plan around him. I think Peppers may have a bit of Randy Moss syndrome – taking plays off etc. But both are just so talented – I think he’s at least worth pursuing. (There are new rumors out there that indicate because Carolina fired their D-Line coach and may can their d-coordinator, they are trying desperately to do whatever they can to keep Peppers.)
  3. James Farrior ILB, Pitt – Farrior is one of the unsung studs in the Pitt LB group. He is very solid, very smart and a sure tackler (had 133 tackles in 2008 regular season). As an older veteran, he likely would not demand the huge contract others will, he could bring some veteran leadership and he would know the 3-4 inside and out.
  4. Terrell Suggs OLB/DE, Balt – Suggs is a great pass rusher and an instinctive player. His addition would add instant credibility to our defense. Think for a moment if somehow the Pack could field a defense including Suggs, Peppers, Kampman and Jenkins – opposing QBs would be terrified.
  5. OJ Atogwe, FS, Rams – Atogwe is likely going to get the franchise tag because he’s that good. While Bigby may have potential, Atogwe is already an elite safety and having a secondary of Collins, Woodson, Atogwe and Harris would make passing against the Pack brutally difficult.
  6. Matt Birk – Birk has been a leader for the Vikings for years and is still one of the better centers in the NFL. He would be an upgrade over Wells, allow Spitz to focus on being a guard and help Rodgers develop as an offensive leader.
  7. Karlos Dansby, ILB Cards – Dansby is a good player, not great yet, but still good. But he is young, plays in a 3-4 and there are some who believe it’s just a matter of time before he becomes a Pro Bowler.
  8. Ray Lewis – rumors are that Balt is close to re-signing him and keeping him there to end his career. If they don’t sign him, Ray Lewis remains one of the best LBs in football and his leadership could really be useful for this team.
  9. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tenn – I put Haynesworth and Lewis down at the bottom here because “my source” (what I read 10 minutes ago in a public source everyone has access to) indicates that both are likely to re-sign with their present teams. If either ends up being available, I do think we ought to consider signing one of them.

Generally speaking (or generally writing I suppose is more approrpiate), going into this off-season I think it’s very important that the Pack acquire at least one free agent LB who has experience in the 3-4. I also think bringing in a strong D-lineman ought to be a priority – though we may need to look to the draft more for this as the pool of free agent d-linemen is a bit thin outside of Peppers/Haynesworth. I also wouldn’t be opposed to looking specifically at USC LB Ray Maualuga as reader Pmenadue advocates. The guy is a stud. (A decent 2nd or 3rd round pick if he’s still available would be James Laurinaitis from Ohio State – I know many Packer fans may be reluctant to try another OSU LB, but I think this guy will be better than Hawk).

One early draft fear I do have is that TT will stubbornly stick to his “best player available” philosophy when we so clearly need help at certain positions (o-line, d-line, lb, possibly secondary). We need to draft for need this year.

Silverstein grills Ted Thompson

January 11, 2009

Read this Q&A that jsonline writer Tom Silverstein had with TT recently. I want to be one of the first to commend Silverstein for not asking easy questions. This is a good interview that asks some important questions and difficult questions for TT. It’s fairly evident to me that one concern Silverstein had throughout this season was the lack of veteran leadership. He raises this point several times in the interview and TT doesn’t take well to it.

The interview made me think of several things: TT didn’t like our defense, he cares about what’s written about him, he was smart not to touch the Favre situation, I like that he denied injuries being a major factor, he may be putting too much emphasis on the kind of person a player is which may cloud his judgment re the player’s ability to contribute (think Poppinga), and finally, and importantly, he does care about this team.

On a related noted, did a story on TT too. There is one interesting exchange in this interview that I thought stood out. Recently Charles Woodson shared with the media his belief that the team needs more veteran leadership, apparently implying that a lack of this kind of leadership affected the team’s ability to win close games. Read here from the article for more:

Some tried to draw a straight line between the Packers’ youth to a lack of leadership, perhaps providing a reason — THE reason? — the team faltered in so many close games. Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson appeared to be solidly in that camp, calling on the Packers’ front office to bring in some veterans. “Well, Charles is a very bright guy, so I’m not going to dispute what he says,” Thompson said. “Other than to say that, you know, we were in a bunch of close games that we didn’t win, and I think it’s a little too simplistic to say that we were too young.”

A lack of veteran leadership didn’t alone cost the Packers those games – Ted’s right. But I also think TT missed Woodson’s larger point – veterans could have helped in those games and others. Like the author of the article states, Woodson was driving at the possibility that the team lost close games because there were too many young guys out there inexperienced in those tight situations. And, a veteran leader or two might help pull the team through moments like that while at the same time just adding needed competence and depth to a questionable defense in particular.

I agree with Woodson (and I’m assuming Silverstein here) here. I actually think a good number of Packer fans probably would agree too. What’s interesting is that it seems TT is concerned about bringing in a free agent who may not fit in the locker room. Doesn’t seem like he’s considered the possibility that certain free agents might come in and actually improve team chemistry. In fact, team chemistry can often be improved simply by being better and if we add a quality free agent veteran or two (or five), we will get better (can’t get much worse), which may improve team chemistry. Packer fans remember how Reggie White came in and made the defense legit immediately. Eugene Robinson also helped quite a bit. While there aren’t many free agents who could step in and alter a defense like Reggie White, there are certainly quality guys out there who could fill our defensive holes or at least add depth, while at the same time providing some added leadership.

One final thing I do want to say is that I am not one of those people asking for TT’s head here. I don’t think he should be fired right now and I haven’t even jumped ship on his overall philosophy (though I am souring). I do think it’s important though that we question him more and more when the team is not winning. When things aren’t going well many fans naturally shift to trying to problem-solve to make this a winning team – just like TT and his staff will do. Let’s hope things get turned around this coming year – I just hope he dabbles a bit more with free agency than he has in the past.

2009 NFL free agency options

January 10, 2009

Just to get your wheels turning a bit here, I wanted to list some of the unrestricted free agents who should be available going into this off-season. (Caution: never heard of this source/website, but the free agent info is consistent with what I’ve seen elsewhere and it was presented in the easiest to read format).

  • Matt Birk (C) – very good still, would be an upgrade over Wells (Because he’s getting older, he’d probably come reasonably priced.) Could really help develop Rodgers too – one of the smarter players in the NFL.
  • Jordan Gross (T) – likely too expensive, but a significant upgrade over Clifton and possibly a smart long-term investment.
  • Other Offensive Linemen – I can’t pretend to know which of the free agent linemen are any good, but there HAVE to be at least a couple who could add needed depth or perhaps serve as starter updgrades.
  • Shane Lechler (P) – we should offer him $4-6 million a year…not kidding.
  • Owen Daniels (TE) – like a good # of these guys, he’ll likely get re-signed (if he hasn’t already), but then the Pack should trade for him or something. Donald Lee and Poppinga for Daniels. Just have Winston Moss call Houston and give them BS about how Poppinga played “very well” in 2008.
  • Julius Peppers (DE) – was weak in 2007, but great in 2008 and before 2007 – would certainly help our D-Line immediately.
  • Albert Haynesworth (DT) – appears to be quite close to re-signing with Tenn, so not a likely option.
  • Other Defensive Linemen – I am not too sure if players like Rocky Bernard or Jonathan Babineaux are still contributing at some level, but there may be some big bodies like these who could at least add some needed depth to our lines. I’m not sure I’d take a chance on a guy like Tank Johnson, but the fact is, at some point he did play at a high level and it’s at least possible that he may now be mature enough to stay out of trouble off the field.
  • Darren Sproles (RB) – this guy is unreal. He had a big game Saturday which has given him lots of attention – but he also had a huge game the week before when SD played Den. He is the quickest person…on earth. He would definitely give us a potentially unique and nasty 1-2 punch, but my guess is that he’ll command serious money on the open market and TT will not want to shell out for a RB.
  • Terrell Suggs (OLB/DE) – he’s one of those guys who may not get the attention he deserves – if we move to a 3-4, I would pursue him hard and even if we remain in a 4-3, a decent D coordinator should easily be able to find a role for someone with his talent.
  • Ray Lewis (ILB) – we all know re Ray Lewis. He could be a great veteran addition and though he’ll cost a lot and it would be financially risky to invest in him at this stage in his career, his leadership, fire and quality could transform the defense for the next few years – perhaps having a Reggie-like effect.
  • Mike Peterson (ILB) – despite having a bit of a conflict with his coach this year, Mike Peterson has been talked about as being a very underrated MLB who can cover the field very well.
  • Bart Scott (ILB) – another Balt LB who can play
  • Karlos Dansby (OLB) – a quality young guy for the Cards (if Nolan is hired, I’ll bet he lobbies for Dansby)
  • James Farrior (ILB) – very good player some think is seriously underrated
  • Brian Dawkins (FS) – getting older but still very good
  • OJ Atogwe (FS) – offer a big contract to this guy, with he and Collins back there, the Pack would be set for years at safety (though one of them would have to learn the Strong Safety position – same with Dawkins)
  • Dunta Robinson (CB) – though he was out for much of 2008 with knee issues, this guy can play.
  • Nnamdi Adomugha (CB) – Will cost a fortune but several national NFL writers have recently indicated that Asomugha has taken over the title as NFL’s best shut-down corner. Could we trade Al Harris?

There are certainly a number of other free agents available who could help our team, but these were the players who caught my eye. In particular, I am most interested in Peppers, Lechler, Suggs, Ray Lewis, Farrior and Atogwe (if moving he or Collins to SS wouldn’t be too hard). I don’t think it would be a stretch to sign at least a few of these guys given our cap space and if we did, our team would improve instantly. If I had the chance to interview TT, one question I would ask him is: how does he approach free agency? I would remind him of his stated draft philosophy of just selecting the best available player with little to no regard for position needs – does he have a similar approach in free agency? Why or why not?

Anyway, just thought I’d get us thinking about free agency now so that as the off-season heats up, we can collectively put so much pressure on the team to make some moves that they will finally give in and ultimately, do what’s best for the team.